Note: This is my response to the Daily Prompt for 1/8/2013 of the Scribbler’s January Writing Contest. Please read and comment, telling me what you think!
While interning at the Museum of Fine Arts as a restorer of renaissance paintings you find a hidden message embedded in the Rembrandt…
Today’s genre is Gothic/Mystery/Suspense/Horror
Russ pulled the wool coat tighter around his face as the cold wind and sleet pelted him. Just another block until he could escape this misery inside the warm confines of the museum. His left hand gripped the tray holding the four cups of Starbucks coffee he was expected to deliver. His mind wandered to a thought about why it was that interns were expected to get the coffee each day. Probably some misguided attempt at hazing that stuck.
The large gothic style entrance of the Museum of Fine Arts never ceased to impress the young man as he made his way up the front steps to enter. Juan was at his usual post, ready with a smile to greet every member of the staff first, then the throngs of visitors. Even though the guard at the front door wasn’t considered part of the establishment of department heads or curators, Joe handed him the usual cup of Brazilian roast Juan had told him was his favorite. For the umpteenth time, Juan slapped a five dollar bill on the counter and tapped his flashlight on the edge of the counter, the routine they established weeks before. It meant you will take this money or I will have to get all “guard-like” on you.
“Yes, Mr. Valdez,” Russ said with a mock bow. He snatched the bill and turned to back through the swinging doors that led to the main display hall.
As was expected, the place was quiet, with no other staff members in sight. Russ enjoyed the moments of silence. Within sixty minutes there would be a buzz of activity, especially with the school groups making their journey today. He made his way past the sculpture room , through the modern art to the room where the Renaissance paintings were displayed. He knew there was supposed to be some additions today, and hoped Miss Anne Carroway would let him do the honors of unpacking and displaying the new works.
The chance to intern here was one that he battled with his classmates for two years to secure. Their professors had the connections to make it so, but the competition to choose the single representative was brutal. No one who had been here before him had ever struggled to find a position later than one month prior to their graduation date. It had that much prestige. Adding the practical experience working with a painting by Raphael, Da Vinci or Michelangelo and he would be golden.
Russ sat the coffee down on a nearby bench and approached some packing crates he knew held the expected masterpieces. From behind he heard a soft chuckle.
“I know, you want to do it,” Anne Carroway said as she approached.
“Very much so.”
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
Russ turned to look at her, then slid off the large coat and went to work. Within minutes he had the cases open and began to retrieve the works. Carroway narrated and quizzed her apprentice about the various paintings.
“When would this have been completed?” Carroway asked.
probably the mid-1400s. His ability improved until he was nearly sixty,” Russ said.
Carroway nodded as she admired her young assistant;’s grasp of renaissance history.
Russ stopped on one particular painting, leaning it forward and backward as he studied the scene.
“What is it?” Carroway asked.
“Just a minute,” Russ replied. He rummaged in the satchel he always carried, retrieving the full size computer tablet. After a few quick key strokes he turned the device to show Carroway. “I noticed something similar in a Lippi yesterday. Do you see the small writing here?”
Carroway mounted the glasses that perpetually swung from the cord around her neck and was surprised to notice there was indeed some small writing on the Rembrandt Russ had just retrieved from the packing container.
“What does it say?”
“I think it is Latin. Let me pull up a translator,” Russ replied.
Carroway stared at the script, wishing she had paid more attention in college, but that was decades ago. Watching the young man’s fingers tap away made her realize just how isolated she was in this technology obsessed present.
“Oh my!” Russ replied.
“What does it say?”
“To my one and only Catherine. The waters separate our bodies, but nothing can come between our hearts!”
Carroway looked down at the painting one more time, then raised her head slowly as her eyes went wide. She looked Russ in the eyes and whispered,”Do you think he means Queen Catherine of England?”
“The timing would be right,” Russ replied.
“Holy cow!” Anne Carroway exclaimed.